Online Data Sets

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Canadian Daily Climate Data

Historical daily and monthly climate data from across Canada is available on the Environment Canada website. You can access this information directly online or order a copy of the data. For certain sites, the data goes back to 1840 although the vast majority of information is from the twentieth century.

Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans

The Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans is an online database of weather data for the world’s oceans between 1750 and 1850. The project was a collaboration between several European Universities and was funded by the European Union between 2001 and 2003. The most recent update occurred in September 2006; according to Ricardo Garcia Herrera, the project’s manager, no future updates of the database are expected. The entire database is available freely for download from the website, and is saved as a zipped .mdb file (Microsoft Access database).

The database includes information from ship logs on British, Dutch, French and Spanish vessels. These logs almost invariably show daily records of weather conditions at noon local time each day. Thousands of log books were examined and uploaded to the database, which includes over 280 000 individual entries. Most of the points appear in the North Atlantic Ocean, but extensive data for the southern tip of Africa and the Indian Ocean are also available. The most prominent period for data is 1778-1780, with relatively little data between 1808 and 1835. All of the original log books are housed in European archives. This project includes the data from approximately 10% of all European log books currently in archives.

Each entry may include climatological information such as date, longitude and latitude, wind speed, wind direction, precipitation, temperature, air pressure and humidity – though the completeness of records varies widely. Because the instruments used by the sailors often pointed to the magnetic north rather than true north, the precise location of the record is difficult to discern. CLIWOC has provided a formula to correct for this but this is a complicated correction that casual users are unlikely to make.

In the interests of facilitating research into past Canadian climates, NiCHE has provided a filtered version of the database as an Excel file displaying only records falling between points of latitude and longitude that can loosely be considered as Canadian territorial water. There are 2082 such records from Atlantic Canada, Hudson’s Bay and the Pacific Coast. You can obtain this file here.

Canadian Cryospheric Information Network

The Canadian Cryospheric Information Network hosts a wealth of current snow, lake ice, sea ice, permafrost, glaciers and river ice data, as well as past data from the 1970s. You can search theirPolar Data Catalogue directly.

Ice Data Project

The Institute for Ocean Technology (founded in 1985 as Canada’s national centre for ocean technology research and development) Ice Data project contains four databases holding information about historical ice extent in Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, iceberg sightings, and ship iceberg collisions. Databases include charts, bibliographies, and tables. The website also has an iceberg photo gallery (though these photos are recent).

The Newfoundland Ice Extent database holds historic records of ice distribution around Newfoundland from 1810 to 1958. Information in this database has come from community diaries, newspapers, and shipping gazettes. The study is primarily concerned with the extent of pack ice from January to April. The website includes tables, charts, and a bibliography all fully accessible online.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence database includes ice charts from 1820 to 1962 (and some sporadic charts from as early as 1768), links to the data files in latitude and longitude, a bibliography and downloadable reports. The recorded information reports on the historic extent of sea ice around the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Iceberg Sightings database holds a collection of over 105,000 iceberg records in the North Atlantic. These entries range from 1800 to 1959. Most of these records are from the International Ice Patrol annual bulletins and weekly Hydrographic Bulletins of the US Hydrographic Office. Data is stored in Excel files for the 1800s and the 1900s, which are accessible through the website by year.

Global Change Master Directory (NASA)

NASA has been compiling earth science data sets covering a wide array of information ranging from air temperature to land use to water quality. These data sets are global in scope and not exclusively historical in nature. There is a lot of information available here that is readily searchable by kind of information and by place. Some Canadian data sets, including historical climate data sets can be found on on this site.

Online Climate Data Directory (US)

The National Climatic Data Services: US Department of Congress (NCDC) is the world’s largest active archive of weather data. The Online Climate Data Directory gathers information from as early as 1800, and supports publications produced globally. This website allows researchers to access a vast amount of both primary and secondary historical weather documentation.

The First International Polar Year

The First International Polar Year: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: US Department of Congress has posted the records of the first International Polar Year (IPY) which occurred between 1881-1884. This dataset offers a unique opportunity to study the Arctic as it existed prior to the present era of environmental change. Researchers can make use of the Meteorological data from IPY stations which have been collected and digitized, and the extensive documentary image collection.

Map from the IPY webpage showing the principal Arctic stations. Station 8 (Fort Rae) and Station 10 (Kingua Fjord, now Clearwater Fjord) are both located in Canada, as was Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq) an Auxiliary Station that is not shown on the map but is located on Ungava Bay in northern Quebec.
Map from the IPY webpage showing the principal Arctic stations. Station 8 (Fort Rae) and Station 10 (Kingua Fjord, now Clearwater Fjord) are both located in Canada, as was Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq) an Auxiliary Station that is not shown on the map but is located on Ungava Bay in northern Quebec.

World Climate Data and Monitoring Program

World Climate Data and Monitoring Program
The World Meteorological Organization runs this program in order to ensure the effective collection and management of climate data. Historical records have been kept monthly from as early as 1920, which allows researchers to analyze this historical global weather data and attempt to find any information that pertains in particular to Canada.